Explore the USS Hornet Apollo Recovery Ship

April 29, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

Moored at Alameda Point (former Naval Air Station Alameda) in San Francisco Bay, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet is a registered State and National Historic Landmark which has been open to the public since October 1998. This magnificent floating museum has the distinction of having participated in two defining historical events in the 20th century – World War II and the Apollo 11 space mission. It is fitting then, that at the official opening of the museum on October 17, 1998, the key speaker was Apollo 11 astronaut Buzz Aldrin.

In addition to being the principal reason for visiting the museum, the USS Hornet (CVS-12) aircraft carrier, has a number of different types of aircraft on display, both on the Flight Deck and the Hangar Deck of the ship. These include the T-28B Trojan military trainer; the TBM-3E Avenger WWII torpedo bomber; the US-2B Tracker ASW utility aircraft; the TA-4J Skyhawk trainer aircraft; the F8U-1 Crusader supersonic fighter from the Vietnam War era; the S-3B Viking long-range aircraft; and the F14A Tomcat used in the Gulf War (and immortalized in the movie Top Gun).

One of the highlights of the USS Hornet Museum is its Apollo Splashdown Display. When the Apollo 11 moon mission took place in 1969, the USS Hornet CVS-12 was selected as the Prime Recovery Ship (PRS) to retrieve the astronauts when they splashed down. The operation was carried out flawlessly, and four months later the Hornet recovered the crew of Apollo 12 – the second manned mission to the moon. The display documenting these historic events, and other space exploration, includes memorabilia and photographs from the Apollo 11 and Apollo 12 splashdowns; the Sikorsky SH-3H Sea King helicopter used in the filming of the movie Apollo 13; the Mobile Quarantine Facility used by Apollo 14 astronauts; and the Apollo Command Module CSM-011 used for the unmanned suborbital flight test AS-202 in August 1966.

Visitors to the USS Hornet Museum can watch a short video on the ship’s history and take a self-guided tour through the ship. Museum docents are always on hand to answer questions and provide additional information. Moreover, the museum runs a series of “Living Ship Days” where participants have the opportunity to experience an aircraft carrier in action by means of simulated flight operations, mission briefings and meeting former crew.

Visit the Pima Air & Space Museum in Arizona

March 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

Located at the Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona, the Pima Air & Space Museum is home to nearly 300 aircraft, as well as the Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame. The museum is closely associated with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG), keeper of the largest aircraft preservation and storage facility in the world, often referred to simply as the ‘Boneyard’ as it is the final resting place for many aircraft. Visitors to the museum can enjoy a bus tour of the 2,000 acre Boneyard where they will hear interesting stories about some of the 4,000 aircraft stored there.

The term ‘Boneyard’ may give the impression that the aircraft at the 309th AMARG serve no purpose, and indeed a large number are no longer of any use, but some of the planes will be restored and possibly fly again – at least at air shows and special events – while other aircraft may yield valuable parts to use in restoration projects.

Among the aircraft in the Boneyard is the only airplane in the world to have received an honorary Purple Heart – a prestigious US military decoration awarded to men and women wounded or killed in armed conflict. The C-130’s engine and wings were damaged by gunfire during Vietnam, and as technicians were battling to fix it, they were fired at again. They managed to get the airplane going, took off and landed in the nearest safer spot, thereby saving lives – and the airplane.

Another airplane of interest is a Navy LC-130F which was stuck in Antarctica for 17 years, often buried so deep in snow that all that was visible was the tip of its tail and tips of some of the props. After being dug out of the snow, the LC-130F was repaired and continued in service for another ten years before being brought to the Boneyard in Arizona.

Visitors to the Pima Air & Space Museum can take their time viewing the indoor and outdoor exhibits, as well as viewing the restoration work taking place in Hangar 5. The Dorothy Finley Space Gallery offers the opportunity to look inside a training example of an Apollo space capsule, experience interactive exhibits, see a moon rock and learn about the history of the space race. Other exhibits include WWII barracks, aviation ground support vehicles and outside airplane exhibits.

Opening times and tour times are seasonal, so it’s best to check the Pima Air & Space Museum website when planning your visit.